What I’m about to write was to be expected, but it’s also as appropriate as it gets: The obvious comparison between the suppression of the Orthodox protests in Jerusalem (despite the many reservations I have about them – topped by the violation of Torah bans and desecration of the Shabbat by stone-throwing demonstrators) and the suppression of the popular uprising in Iran by the Basij forces is unavoidable.
I wasn’t there, but I saw photos taken by various news agencies. I saw the violence and brutality used against the protestors. I also saw (illegal?) arrests by undercover police officers, who jumped out of the masses, pulled out handcuffs, and pushed youthful haredim into awaiting vehicles as if they were terrorists threatening national security. I even saw the head of a boy of about 14 trapped in the arms of a smiling thug.
Many of the police officers deployed at the ultra-Orthodox protest at the Mea Shearim neighborhood did not wear any badges or uniforms; they were without identity. Some of them even covered their faces when photographers documented the arrests. Did we already mention the undercover police officers and Israelis treated as if they are Palestinian terror suspects?
How easy it is for online talkbackers to slam the haredim and condemn those who sought to cry out on behalf of the Shabbat, even if the way they did it is illegitimate (in my view as well.) I did not expect to find even a trace of solidarity with the legitimate right to protest. After all, the hatred for the Orthodox around here is so deeply entrenched and so powerful.
Only fury and hateOnly weeks ago we saw similar pictures in Iran. Angry and helpless protestors facing merciless security forces beating them up. However, the Iranian protestors (who were very nice: They did not hurl stones or burn garbage dumpsters) drew the world’s compassion, sympathy, and understanding.
Yet in Mea Shearim the situation was entirely different. Despite the hair-raising similarities and despite the fact that the Shabbat protestors already have their own “Neda” – a young ultra-Orthodox man who sustained serious wounds – we saw no compassion or understanding, but rather, only fury and hate.
Regrettably, the haredim who protested on Shabbat are much more frustrated and feel more persecuted than the protestors in Iran. Young Iranians have access to Twitter and YouTube, and they were able to make their cries heard and show their side. On the other hand, the Orthodox youngsters imprisoned in Mea Shearim do not have the means to make themselves heard; they are helpless and trapped.
So just stop for a moment and think about the fact that these youngsters also have something to say. They simply don’t have a way to do it.